Smile Politely

Urbana Basement branches out with fundraiser

On the grand scale of service, Urbana Basement is not in the same class as, say, Empty Tomb. But, within the music community in C-U, it’s hard to find a more altruistic group than the fine folks at Urbana Basement. While Jake Metz and Jack Maples are the first to admit that the venture is certainly self-serving to a degree, and not simply a labor of love for local music, their work is most certainly for the common good.

The first UB sessions were recorded more than two years ago now (more background on UB and its origins can be found here), and throughout its existence the website has been completely unfunded. Which means all the recording equipment and editing software for both video and audio, as well as the website hosting expenses, have come directly from the pockets of Metz and Maples. Expenses like these can be a major drain on the most well-lined wallets, to say nothing of recent college graduates, and though neither of the men behind UB have any complaints about costs so far, they would like to move the site toward sustainability.

So, UB is hosting its first ever concert to raise funds for the website. The concert, which is being dubbed a Champaign Attic show, is taking place at the Velvet Elvis on Thursday night at 8 p.m., and will feature Grandkids, Santah, and Elsinore. Tickets are $7 in advance (via BigCartel) or $10 at the door. However, there will be a limit of 100 tickets sold for this event, so they may not be available at the door.

The purposes of this show are numerous. Obviously, the funds generated from ticket sales will help pay for the cost of the UB website. First, Metz hopes to generate money to cover hosting fees, anything beyond that is a bonus and could be used to purchase more recording equipment. “It would be cool if I didn’t have to keep paying hosting. It would be awesome if this was to the point where we could upgrade equipment, but we’re not there yet,” he said.

Second, this show offers UB a chance to record new material in a space outside of the basement, which can be a bit claustrophobic for bands and the cameramen. “They have such a cool space at the Velvet Elvis — it’s a huge loft, there are real cool brick walls. And because it’s so huge we can get nice, proper lighting and cool camera angles that we can’t get when we’re cramped,” Metz said. “We’ve squeezed every ounce of capability out of the basement. We’ve got lights crammed just about everywhere.”

“We know every nook and cranny,” Maples added. “We’ve had cameramen under people or amps.”

In the larger space at the Velvet Elvis, the cameramen can be more creative and experiment more than they would at their home base. Having a crowd on hand will also give the videos more energy, which the crew hopes will translate to more exciting videos (but the need for the crew to move also necessitates the 100-person limit, so there are trade-offs). In addition to that, they’ll have a jib to use for this first Champaign Attic show, which has Metz and Maples nearly giddy.

Another purpose this show serves is restitution. It’s no coincidence that the bands on the bill are the first bands to record sessions with UB. Because those first sessions were recorded while the UB crew were still honing their craft, the Champaign Attic show, and the higher quality videos that will result from it, are a kind of repayment — a way to thank those bands for taking a chance on an upstart in a crowded basement two years ago.

Of course, the UB crew has improved their recording capabilities over the last two years by recording a lot. Though their website may not show the fruits of their labor (yet), there is a glut of material ready for the viewing public. So, another purpose for the Champaign Attic show is to showcase some of the unreleased UB videos.

Because sound checking for recording takes much longer than sound checking for a traditional live show, there will be more down time between bands than normal at the Champaign Attic show. To fill the void, UB plans to screen a wide array of footage at the concert. Metz and Maples didn’t provide an exact list of what would be projected, but said fans might see videos of headliners from last year’s Pygmalion Music Festival, some footage of “a certain punk band’s last show,” some of The Appleseed Cast’s performance at the Velvet Elvis, or some new basement sessions.

Part of the reason the list is unclear is because of work that still needed completing when the event was dreamt up. Maples teased Metz about it, claiming the event was organized as a way to get more videos finished. “I partly feel like you put this event together to put the axe to my head to get all this stuff done. Because we have so much content,” he said.

Metz laughed it off without denying the accusation. “Kind of,” he chuckled.

As if all of that was not enough, the UB crew have added extra value to the price of admission to the Champaign Attic show by teaming up with Mark Hartstein, also known as “Shades” during his time at Black Dog. The local food personality will be providing concertgoers with an array of snacks. Metz mentioned duck fat Chex mix and smoked popcorn among the possible gourmet snacks to be served at the show. He also said that he would like to continue to integrate food into the Champaign Attic shows to bring together different aspects of C-U’s great cultural scene.

To recap, the reasons for the Champaign Attic shows are numerous, but are also the reason why people should be so excited to attend: the chance to support a great local project, to see great bands from C-U or those with local ties, to view new UB videos, to eat delicious snack food. So far, UB has been “lots of fun, no funds,” according to Maples, but with the help of the community that could (and should) soon be changed.

Thursday’s show is a can’t miss in terms of a great time with great music. But for those who simply cannot make it, for whatever reason, Metz hopes to do a few of these shows per year. As of now, though, there is no second show scheduled. So, get those tickets while they last.


The Urbana Basement fundraiser is happening tonight at the Velvet Elvis, featuring Elsinore, Santah and Grandkids.

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